(19th-Century Biographies)

The two phases of Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling’s career were distinctly different. His second, more despondent, phase consisted of his last philosophical period, stretching across forty-five years from 1809 to 1854, in which he saw his significance as a German Idealist decline. Failing to revive his influence against Hegelianism in Berlin in 1841, he became melancholic and pessimistic, a condition he tried to surmount by developing a system of metaphysics based on Christian revelation and a personal God. Hegel’s great philosophical influence was denied to Schelling, whose early and middle periods—his philosophy of nature and philosophy of identity—fell between Fichte’s Idealism and Hegel’s system of the Absolute spirit.

Nevertheless, over the past century Schelling’s independence and importance to philosophy have become more apparent. In its concern not only with the nature of reality but also with the fact of its very existence, Schelling’s philosophy bears a strong, if suggestive, resemblance to modern existentialism. In Philosophie der Mythologie, Schelling ventures into the field of philosophical anthropology by arguing that humanity, as the embodiment of freedom and creative intelligence, is the essence of the world, which finds expression in mythmaking and religion, humanity’s most profound activities. He explored the moods of sadness associated with humanity’s being in the world. Like Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Schelling sought to express the ineffable poignancy of human existence, anticipating the notions of existential anxiety and psychoanalytic resistance to cure. Schelling, however, was convinced that despair was denied the last word on human existence by the revelation of God.